Looking back at Georgia football’s historic Signing Day
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What a day …
Well, that was something. On Wednesday, Signing Day, Kirby Smart polished off the No. 1 recruiting class in the country by signing four players, all 4-stars or better, who were previously uncommitted to Georgia. Two flipped from Michigan and Alabama. All told, between the players signed Wednesday and those signed during the Dec. 20-22 early signing period, Smart and his staff put together not only the best class in college football, but one of the best in the history of recruiting rankings. SB Nation called the class “basically a Death Star,” which, is the best description I’ve come across for this ridiculously talented group of freshmen.
What’s so impressive about this class isn’t the star power — although, with seven 5-stars, there’s plenty of that — it’s the depth and variety. Georgia signed 26 players and not only hit every need, but landed a player at every position, often multiple top players at a position. With this class as a backbone, Georgia should be in national title contention for at least the next four seasons. These guys are that good, y’all.
Which is all to say, Wednesday could go down in the history books as a day to remember for Georgia fans. So let’s do that right now, and take a quick glance back at the best day Georgia football has ever had on the recruiting trail.
The first domino to fall for Georgia came around 10 a.m. on Signing Day when 5-star CB Tyson Campbell out of American Heritage in south Florida, the same program that produced Sony Michel and Isaiah McKenzie, picked the Dawgs. Campbell is 6-foot-1 and Smart intimated that he’ll be the fastest player on the team the moment he steps on campus. With plenty of open spots at corner, chances are good Campbell will avoid a redshirt and fight for playing time, maybe even a starting spot, right away. In his Signing Day presser, Smart summed Campbell’s talents up with a rhetorical question. “Tyson Campbell, what’s not to love,” he asked.”
Shortly after Campbell made his decision to come to Athens, the UGA secondary got even deeper with the signing of 4-star Lee County S Otis Reese. Reese was considered a linebacker by most during the recruiting process, but Reese will begin his college career at safety. Smart explained that he and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker enjoy working with large safeties. At 6-foot-4, 206 pounds, Reese is nothing if not large. His size will add a new dimension to the secondary. Reese was Smart’s first flip of the day. He had been committed to Michigan for 18 months.
If all had stopped there, it would’ve been a good day for Georgia. But around noon the signing of former Alabama commit 4-star Crisp County OLB Quay Walker took things to the next level. And it wasn’t just the fact that Walker flipped from Alabama to Georgia, it was how he flipped. In a move that made him an instant fan favorite, Walker was met by gasps when he grabbed a Tennessee hat during his announcement ceremony, only to receive a standing ovation when he threw the orange hat across the room and revealed he was wearing Georgia gear under his track suit. Walker apologized and said he wasn’t disrespecting Tennessee with the move. I’m sure the folks in Vols Nation will be very forgiving and definitely won’t carry a grudge the next four years.
Around that time, we got a break from Georgia landing top 2018 prospects when it landed a top 2019 prospect. 4-star TE Ryland Geode from Kennesaw Mountain High announced his intention to play for Georgia nearly a year before he can sign a letter of intent. Georgia also signed two 4-star TEs, Luke Ford and John FitzPatrick, in the class of 2018. Geode is Georgia’s seventh commitment for the Class of 2019, all of whom are rated 4- or 5-stars.
The final surprise of the day came from 4-star Texas WR Tommy Bush, Georgia’s last previously uncommitted player signed as part of the Class of 2018. At 6-5, Bush adds some much needed length to the wide receiver corps. Like with Campbell, Smart praised Bush’s track speed. Bush’s rare blend of size and speed is what makes him such a formidable receiver. Also of note, Bush’s young niece helped him announce his college choice to the world. Apparently, she isn’t a Georgia fan.
The class was rounded out with the signings of a pair of 3-star DTs, Jordan Davis of Charlotte and Tramel Walthour of Hinesville. Davis and Walthour are two of the lowest-rated players in the class, but they each bring great size to the table and will be able to provide depth on the interior line. But stars don’t matter once you get on campus. They’ll get their chance to prove themselves and earn minutes, just like all the guys who signed with Georgia this year.
Oh yeah, and that’s not to mention the 20 guys signed in December, nine of whom are already on campus, working in the classroom and weight room. There’s no reason to be anything but excited about Georgia football.
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Kirby Smart confirms new assistant coaches
Georgia’s on-field coaching staff is now complete for the 2018 season. At his Signing Day presser, Smart confirmed the hiring of two assistants, former Vanderbilt receivers Cortez Hankton and former UGA special teams analyst Scott Fountain. Fountain was rehired after leaving to join Mississippi State’s staff as the special team coordinator. Smart said the roles for these two new assistants are not set in stone and he’ll “determine that in the coming weeks.”
Here’s what Smart about Hankton, who spent six seasons as an NFL receiver, from Seth Emerson of DawgNation:
“He’s a very intellectual guy,” Smart said. “He also played the position. And anytime you played the receiver position I think it helps you tremendously with kids. He was an overachiever as a player. I mean here’s a guy that played on several teams and kept making teams. He made them with toughness, his route-running, his special teams play. And those are all things we want in our wide receiver room.”
Smart had equally glowing remarks about Fountain, who he credited for the special teams turnaround in 2017:
“He was probably one of the biggest assets in our program last year,” Smart said. “Everybody’s made a big deal about the turnaround in special teams. He was really responsible for coaching our coaches. He was able to bring us, and me, some ideas to how we practice. Some innovative things that he’s done, changing what days we did different things. And just organizational things that I thought really helped us. And with that, we were able to move up in special teams rankings and do better. To have him back is phenomenal for us.”
The scholarship situation
So many top recruits signing with the Bulldogs begs the obvious question: How will Georgia make room for all these players? Emerson took a look at some of the scholarship numbers if you’re interested in an answer.
Status update on Natrez Partick, Deangelo Gibbs
Smart’s Signing Day presser also gave us the first updates we’ve gotten on the status of Natrez Patrick and Deangelo Gibbs, both of whom missed the national title run with off-field issues. Patrick is enrolled in classes for the spring. Gibbs is not. While seeming to confirm both still have a place on the team, Smart did not go into much detail.
“I think both those kids are working really hard, doing the things we’ve asked them to do,” Smart said, according to Emerson. “And to be honest with you we’re trying to help them as much off the field as on the field right now.”
Georgia hoops falls … again
It wasn’t all gravy for Georgia sports on Wednesday. The men’s hoops team lost to Vanderbilt, the last-place team in the SEC, 81-66 in Nashville to fall to 13-10 on the season, 4-7 in the SEC. You’ve probably figured out by now that Georgia isn’t going to make the NCAA Tournament. The question now is whether Mark Fox can save his skin.
Next up for Georgia a visit from the No. 8 Auburn Tigers this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on the SEC Network. If recent history is anything to go by, this will not end well for the Dawgs.
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